Friday, January 25, 2008

Talkin' Trackbacks, Part 1: What and Why

One of the exciting aspects of blogging is the ability to interact with your readers. There's something about the rich interplay of ideas and opinions which really fuels the creative process -- even when they tell you that you're being stupid. Also, let's face it, someone commenting on your post means that they probably read it, and we all like to know that we're communicating with somebody.

Most readers interact with the blogger through the comment feature. They click on the "comment" link, enter their well-thought-out response and go on their merry way. This is great as far as it goes, but, if you look to the bottom of this post, right next to the "comments" link, there's a link to a better way.

It's called a trackback.


I've written about this before, but the trackback facility is a wonderful way, as my hero Scott Ginsberg would say, for bloggers to share "link love". The basic idea is similar to making comments, but instead of the reader leaving her message with me, she would write her commentary as a post in her own blog. Then the trackback facility would create a link between the two posts. Instant "link love!"

OK, Why?

Why would I, as a blogger, allow someone to link to my blog posts like this? Isn't the trackbacker basically trying to steal my readers?

Well, no, not really.

In fact, in order to make the "conversation" make sense, the trackbacker almost has to create a link back to my post. So, while she might increase her readership through gaining exposure to my readership, the reverse is also true, so I might get a slight bump in mine.

Amazing. We both win!

You can even make the argument that people are going to be more thoughtful and thought-provoking in their own blogs than they would in the regular comments section on a post. In fact, some bloggers, like Seth Godin, don't even allow comments on their blogs. They only have trackbacks.

Depending on the level of experience you've had with blogging in general, and the facility of trackbacking in particular, you might be intrigued, confused, or simply bored. I'm not sure I can do much with the latter, but we'll be taking a closer look at the details of trackbacks over the next couple of days in hopes of satisfying the former.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at how this whole trackback thing works.

So, what's your experience been with the trackback facility?

1 comment:

Debby said...

Since I only have three seconds, I will use the comment section, but I LOVE trackback for all the reasons you listed. It makes me think twice before commenting on a particular issue, to be sure I understand what was written originally.